One of the most difficult things for many decision-makers is to prioritize their needs. It is far easier to say “everything is an A priority” than to rationally sort through the many features of a project and make tough decisions. It is frustrating to project teams to deal with this type of stakeholder, and fortunately there are techniques that can help.
There are three techniques mentioned in the BABOK® specifically to support prioritizing requirements. Some of the techniques are in wide use, and one of them is more a guideline than a technique. If you are studying for the CBAP® or CCBA™ exams, there is a good chance of being tested on one of these because of their importance.
No, silly, we’re not analyzing the city of Moscow. This technique is more of a standard or guideline, and helps to categorize requirements into four different groups. It uses the capital letters in MoSCoW to designate each type of requirement priority. Note that not all the letters of MoSCoW are part of the meaning, but it makes for a good mnemonic.
M – Must have: must be present in the solution to be successful.
S – Should have: high-priority requirements that will probably appear in the final product, but may be deferred in a crunch.
C – Could have: lower priority requirements, but still desirable. These may appear in the final product if enough time or budget, but will likely be deferred until after the higher priority ones are complete.
W – Won’t have: agreed-on that a requirement may have value, but won’t be included in a current iteration/release. These may be the infamous “version 2” requirements that continually get deferred. Or, these may be viewed as “out of scope” and may or may not ever make it back in scope.
The Moscow Analysis technique won’t necessarily help with these stakeholders who need everything to be a “Must have.” It isn’t all that different from an A-B-C-D type of scheme, either. But, the mnemonic is memorable, and may just be a way to get your stakeholders to think differently about their priorities. Or, you may want to use it in conjunction with one of the following techniques. Read more about the MoSCoW method on Wikipedia.
This technique helps prioritize requirements based on a fixed resource, either time or cost, and is used when the solution approach has been chosen.
- Timeboxing– fits work into a fixed “box” of time, such as 2 weeks or 90 days. Requirements are then prioritized based on the most important requirements that can be accomplished in the time box. Change-driven approaches like Scrum use this method to good advantage. See Wikipedia for more information on timeboxing.
- Budgeting – chooses work based on a budget or a fixed deadline, including regular software package upgrades. Requirements are prioritized based on what can be accomplished with the available resources, using one of three general approaches:
- All in – Starts with all the requirements and estimates for duration and cost. Requirements are dropped until the remaining ones can be met within schedule or budget.
- All Out – Add in requirements until the budget or schedule capacity has been reached.
- Selective – Identify high-priority requirements and add or remove them until the budget or schedule capacity has been reached.
Various facilitation methods employ voting techniques that can help in prioritizing requirements. Voting with a show of hands, using stars on a white board, play money, secret ballots, etc. are all viable ways of selecting the highest priority requirements to be analyzed and implemented first.
Prioritizing requirements is challenging. Using one of the techniques can help you reduce the frustration and increase your odds of avoiding the “everything is an A” dilemma. If you are studying for the CBAP® or CCBA™ exam, these are good things to know as you do your prep work.
1) Get a copy of the BABOK® by downloading it from the IIBA.
2) View the Wikipedia examples cited above.
3) Read about all the task-specific techniques in our CBAP Certification Study Guide.
4) Take our CBAP Certification Preparation training course.